It's well-known that Americans pay more for healthcare and drugs than many other nations, and a recent study confirms that the same is true for oncology drugs.
A study presented at this week's American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual meeting in Chicago has demonstrated large differences in average retail prices for 23 cancer drugs in seven different countries. Prices were highest in the U.S., and lowest in South Africa and India.
In a separate measure of affordability, the study found that even though cancer drugs were less expensive in low-income countries, they were less affordable to patients in those countries.
Researchers calculated monthly drug doses for 15 generic and eight patented cancer drugs that treat a variety of cancers at varying stages. The countries in the study were Australia, China, India, South Africa, the U.K., Israel and the U.S.
The median monthly retail price for cancer drugs ranged from $1,515 in India to $8,694 for a one-month supply of medications in the U.S. for patented drugs. The U.S. was highest in generics as well, with the median monthly retail price at $654. The lowest-priced generics median retail price was $120 to $159 in South Africa.
The study's major shortcomings were that it only used list prices without subtracting discounts and rebates and it didn't consider the different health insurance schemes in the various countries. Both can impact affordability to individual patients.
For instance, manufacturer discount programs can eliminate the cost for individual patients. Patent assistance programs can also substantially reduce out-of-pocket costs. Insurers can also negotiate discounts.
Among the seven countries, cancer drugs are believed to be most affordable in Australia, where, on average, individuals spent 3% of their income on generics and 71% on patented drugs, and least affordable in China and India, where individuals must spend three to four times their income on cancer drugs.
The unfunded study, performed by researchers from Israel, China, the U.S. and the U.K., is thought to be one of the largest global analyses of cancer drug prices. Prior studies was sporadic and based on less drugs in fewer countries or regions, the authors said.
“This study provides a glimpse into prices and affordability of cancer drugs around the world and sets the stage for further research,” said lead study author Dr. Daniel Goldstein, a senior oncologist at Rabin Medical Center in Petach Tkvah, Israel, in a statement.